The exact date or year of life insurance’s birth is somewhat unknown; while we are unsure whether it was in 700 or 100 BC, we know it happened during those times in Rome.
As the story goes, the Roman government and its people believed that all citizens, regardless of social status, must be buried correctly, or they will become an unhappy ghost. With the understanding that not all families can afford the expensive funerals (funerals have always been expensive), burial clubs were created to pay for the funeral costs. Within a few years, clubs determined it would be a clever idea to increase the amount raised to help provide for the surviving wife and kids as well.
However, once the Roman Empire fell around 400 A.D., the concept of life insurance was lost for hundreds of years.
(A.D.) 1640: Around this time, the world’s first mortality tables were created by John Graunt using Church records to calculate lifespans. These mortality tables continue even today (today’s lifespan length has doubled in comparison).
1688: Edward Lloyd’s Coffee House was a favorite gathering place for ship captains, owners, and merchants that served as the go-to place for shipping news, and later marine insurance. It was in this small shop on London Tower Street that the modern concept of an insurance company came into being.
1735: Charleston, S.C. formed the first insurance company in the American colonies. Offering only fire insurance at first, the company eventually added life insurance in 1760.
1752: The first mutual fire insurance company in America was established: the Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire. This was first met with criticism as religious authorities expressed their outrage at placing value on human life. However, the criticism subsided once it was realized that the insurance protected and provided for the widows and orphans.
1837: There was a boom in insurance company development as legal changes allowed women to purchase life insurance and religious authorities shifted from the demonizing of life insurance. It was during this period that many of today’s largest life insurers were formed (MetLife, MassMutual, New York Life, etc.).
1875: Several years leading up to 1875 saw a depression that led to 46 life insurance companies ceasing operations, with nearly all of them (32) closing altogether. However, this was the first year that the working class had access to buy life insurance, thanks to the Widows and Orphans Friendly Society.
1930: By the eve of the Great Depression, there were more than 120 million life insurance policies– or one policy for every man, woman, and child living in the U.S. at that time.
1976: At this point, 90% of all U.S. married families owned life insurance. 72% of the adult population was also insured.
2001: 2,977 people lost their lives in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Nearly $1.2 billion was paid out in life insurance claims.
2010: Life Insurance hit a 50-year low as 30% of U.S. Households had no life insurance protection.
Today: Thanks to the advent of the internet, people can find the cheapest rate, even shopping internationally. This had led to the merging of financial services and life insurance creating a global market and competition for price versus convenience.